Sometimes I look back at things I've written over the past few years and cringe. I was struggling; sad, depressed, anxious, always consumed with food and eating and not eating and my body and my weight and too much and too little and with trying to make everything stop.
And so life went by.
I'd always read that depression lies, but I never knew quite what that meant until recently. Now, I can shake my head, stomp my feet, and proclaim emphatically that Depression Lies! It does! Now, I can look in the mirror, hug myself, and say firmly, You are not the fucked-up failure you once thought you were. Look, Self. You live, you breathe, you work, you eat, you love: you are succeeding.
For several years — weighed down by the depression with which I hadn't yet been diagnosed — with every inhale all I brought into myself was unhappiness, unkind thoughts, and near paralyzing self-pity. I breathed in more and more negativity, never letting it out, until it turned into a giant festering mass of anxiety that manifested itself as the complete inability to have any sort of healthy relationship with food.
I focused on the eating disorder. Despite what doctors and nutritionists and therapists advised, I allowed it to become a way of identifying myself. It was so much easier to say, "Hi, I'm Hallie, I do terrible things to my body with food and I can't control it," than to realize that underneath everything ran the quiet river of knowing that (depression whispered) I really didn't like myself as a person. It was so much easier to spend hour after expensive therapist-run hour planning grocery lists and meal outlines, repeating I'll buy this and eat this and keep this down (even though I never would) than to confront the real reasons why I couldn't stand to be alone inside my own head. In this way, the eating disorder became its own monster; a tornado I couldn't control.
In retrospect, it's terrifying just how all-consuming it all was.
I say all this now, of course. While I was living and breathing it, I could never have realized that to truly move away from the eating disorder and all of my body image issues, I'd first have to love myself enough to effect real change in the parts of my life that were causing such depression and anxiety. How simple does that sound? And how impossible, at the same time?
There was no concrete switch that made everything suddenly on the right track. Rather, I know deep within me that it was the combination of excellent healthcare, a supportive family, a dear friend who cared enough to kick me in the pants over and over and over again (and who still does when I need it), the ability to work in an incredible place where I feel valued and accomplished, the vision of my future career within reach, beautiful friends who surround me, a new city, and, of course, time that helped propel me forward. Mostly teeter-totter, never perfect, but forward. Oh, and my body and my brain: they struggled, they persevered, and they continue to move me through life. I am grateful.
I sit here, typing this on my bed in my childhood room, listening to my family bustling about. I feel incredibly lucky. I feel incredibly fortunate. Not just for the good times, the here and now, but for the bad times, too. I know more of what I'm capable of today than I ever have. And I feel that I have a few tools in my belt for the future: security and protection against future troubles; the knowledge that this too shall pass at least as it pertains to depression, fear, and self-doubt.
There is much laughter in my future. This I know.